Elevating a passion to a career – a writer’s story

Study UK Awards India finalist, Aashmika Amit knew from an early age that she wanted to be an author. Studying Creative Writing at Oxford Brookes helped her realise that ambition. Aashmika has become a brilliant writer and here she tells her story so far…

It began with a letter. I had a bone to pick with the Brothers Grimm. The witch in Rapunzel shouldn’t have been pushed off the tower like that, she deserved a better ending. I was ten and the Grimm brothers were dead. But the letter turned into a story, and the story to resolve: the resolve to write my own tales and make my own magic.

I was convinced that by 18, I’d become an author. I didn’t.

I became lost, entrenched in the chequered everyday, writing from the cracks between life and daydreams. With the misfortune of good grades I was pushed into pursuing science, but I somehow made it from electrostatics and depression to the 2011-2014 class of BA in English Literature.

I topped the University of Mumbai and was felicitated with a gold medal before an audience of 2,000. I went on to secure a First Class MA in English, all the while working on my writing. My work had been published in multiple magazines like the Criterion and GreenLife, but I knew what I truly needed was time and space to pen my novel, a fantasy at the time.

“My UK postgraduate degree broke barriers”

Elevating creative writing from a passion to a career was the best decision of my life. Studying MA Creative Writing at Oxford Brookes gave me the freedom to develop my own manuscript, to wander all I wanted without being lost.

In a class with more experienced writers, I gained the highest scores. I was awarded the Blackwell’s Prize for the best performance on the course and graduated with an MA with Distinction in 2017. The confidence and professional validation I gained kickstarted my journey from a writer to an author.

The publishing world had been resistant to my voice as a female writer of colour; my UK postgraduate degree not only broke barriers but made me more capable of breaking them. In 2018, I began working as an author with The Curious Reader, an online literary journal where I reached over 1,000 literary minds a month. I also expanded my network to work with web-based creators – my fiction was adapted for an artistic collaboration for Endangerhood, an Instagram platform with a viewership of 250,000.

In 2019, I was invited to join the English Board of Studies at my home university. As an industry representative, I was requested to help tailor a new curriculum for undergraduate students. My UK education helped me conceptualise the first syllabus for Creative Writing in Mithibai, India’s leading college of humanities. Having a structured writing module is sure to impact the creative future of millions and inspire the faith that writing can very much be a successful career option.

Aashmika (2nd left) with her Study UK Award

The manuscript I began during my MA was chosen as a finalist for the US-based Speculative Literary Foundation Diversity Grant 2022. I could never have imagined receiving international recognition and support without my Oxford Brookes degree.

“When I arrived in Oxford, I recognised the Britain from inside my head”

Britain had been my dream destination since I began reading books. All my favourite authors were from the UK – although I’d only realise that later. Britain lived inside my head: castles, cloisters and cobblestones, magic, mischief and mystery. As soon as I knew I wanted to pursue a career in writing, the UK was the obvious choice.

When I arrived in Oxford, I recognised the Britain from inside my head. This was the city of dreaming spires, of scholars, legends and unmatched literary history; for the next two years, it would be the city to which I belonged. Studying at Oxford Brookes has been invaluable – without the expansive curriculum, brilliant teachers and diverse classmates, I would never have been where I am today.

“My creativity was constantly aroused”

My time at Brookes was decisive in my development as a writer. During lectures, we’d huddle in our writerly mansion on top of the hill; not philosophising about writing, but actually writing – something I wasn’t really expecting.

Writing is a solitary profession but here we learnt to write on demand, to read and dissect and deconstruct, to let each other inside our minds and proffer feedback on what we found there. The insight I got from my mentors, from the Creative Writing and Royal Literary Fellows, from visiting lecturers, high-profile guest authors, and real-world agents and publishers, has sustained not just my outlook toward the artistic process of writing but the practical aspects of what comes before and after it.

What helped me most in my pursuit was the spaces we explored and created together, whether it was during one-to-one workshops with my teachers or in collaborative seminars with my peers.

Aashmika (2nd left) with Professor Morag Joss (centre) and classmates

Even outside of campus, my creativity was constantly aroused: you’d find us in pubs where Narnia and Middle Earth were conceived, where Shakespeare himself frequented, our motley tribe of Irish, Canadian, British, Kazakh, Indian, and others, where the oldest among us was 70 and the youngest 20. A crucial character of my current manuscript took form in the Hogwarts Library itself – the Bodleian, where I’d spend hours with my friend working, surrounded by 15th-century books and architecture.

“Brookes gave me a head start in the life I wanted to build”

If I hadn’t studied at a UK university I’d never have built the global network I still cherish today nor would I have been able to focus my writing into goals and deadlines, and venture out of my comfort zone. Brookes gave me a head start in the life I wanted to build for myself and helped me develop my debut novel in the most literary city in the world.

My time in the UK has played a fundamental role in making me more conscious of my position as a writer in a multicultural milieu. It has added dimension to the purpose of writing itself.